What do you do when there are more options of things to do than there is time to do them in? For purposes of this column local waters will mean any waters on the east side of the Island from Browns Bay to Qualicum Bay, including Denman and Hornby islands. That is quite a lot of good fishing water and for the next two months these waters will hold millions of returning salmon of all five species on their natal runs. We will have varying opportunities to catch them depending on final last-minute regulations in force.
Beach anglers have been watching the beaches for the last few days, looking for the tell-tale jumps of schooling pinks. It is an annual ritual that has much to do with the challenges of the fishery. In 2010 the pink salmon run in the Campbell River was in full swing at this time, but this year while they are appearing in the river in good numbers most of them are not very active biters – so as of this writing it has been much fishing and not much catching. The mouth of the Oyster is starting to show some fish, with the best fishing along the beach towards Salmon Point. However the same challenges, getting the fish to bite, are also present with these fish.
The Eve River has had some good schools offish on a sporadic basis and unless you plan to camp it would be risky for a day trip. I do not have a report on Nile Creek, but if the 2010 run means anything it is a system you should watch, if you are passionate about pink salmon. I have just had a report from a friend who fished the Telegraph Cove waters on the weekend and they hit a large number of big pink that were everywhere and rumour is that they were Fraser River fish.
The beach fishery is just getting started and for anglers who are new to our Valley I would recommend that you take a day and spend it just watching the show. Start at Campbell River, then move south to the mouth of the Oyster and stroll along the beach where anglers are congregated. The Salmon Point Pub would be a good choice for lunch.
Your next stop would be Kin Beach and Cape Lazo south of the boat ramp. Look for schools offish and active anglers. Comox Harbour has been good in past seasons, but not for the last couple of years. Then travel south to Royston beach and check out waters from Gartley Point and Kingfisher Inn south to Union Bay. Your next location to check would be the mouth of Nile Creek off the Old Island Highway. The knowledge you pick up on this simple exploratory trip will serve you well right up until the coho and chum salmon arrive in October and November.
Chinook salmon are the primary targets of most boat anglers fishing local waters. Pulses of chinook are moving through as various races return to their natal streams. I have heard of a fair showing off the Qualicum which is normal for this time of the year. On Saturday I was fishing the Tribune Bay area with Chuck Ashcroft when I connected with the prime feeder chinook in the picture that weighed 25 pounds. How do I know it was a feeder fish? Because it had very small, undeveloped sperm sacks and would not have spawned this year. Think what it would have weighed had it had another year to grow.
It is a wonderful time of the year to be a saltwater angler living in the Comox Valley. As one friend put it the next three months are pure heaven for local anglers. We may have to work a little harder for our fish that some of the outer waters offer, but when you catch them they are much appreciated because they came from home waters.
Our home waters do offer good lingcod fishing on virtually all of our rocky shoals and rock knobs in depths varying from 15 to 100 feet. Smitty and I fished bottomfish last week and we connected with two prime lingcod in the eight- to nine-pound class, plus five nice flounders. There’s more than salmon to catch in local waters.
Ralph Shaw is a master fly fisherman who was awarded the Order of Canada in 1984 for his conservation efforts. In 20 years of writing a column in the Comox Valley Record it has won several awards.